Cato Scholar Presents Insight About New Direction for Supreme Court

Published April 25, 2016

America’s Future Foundation held an intimate briefing with a leading Supreme Court expert, Ilya Shapiro, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies, Cato Institute and Editor, Cato Supreme Court Review, on Monday, April 18, 2016, at the University Club of Chicago. 

The AFF chapter in Chicago, and those in more than 20 cities around the country, are a safe haven for free-market young professionals to network, discuss ideas, and learn the skills they need to become effective lifelong advocated for free markets, limited government, and personal responsibility. 

Roger Custer, executive director of America’s Future Foundation, spoke of the common purpose AFF has with the Illinois Policy Institute in its defense of those who made our nation great.  An on-going effort is being made to establish 50 chapters in cities across the nation by 2018 to promote personal responsibility, free market, and limited government, with a goal is to bring down to a personal level those principles embraced by AFT as a way to inspire millenniums. 

Mr. Ilya Shapiro, upon being introduced by Roger Custer, discussed the future of the court after the passing of Justice Scalia, in remarks based upon his topic of the night:  A New Direction for the Supreme Court?

Shapiro’s thoughts about Antonin Scalia

Scalia joined the Supreme Court in 1986 and proceeded to revolutionize what it meant to be a legal theorist, thus changing the way the justices approached their craft. As an originalist, Scalia based his decisions on what the words meant in the Constitution when ratified.  Before Scalia Constitutional texts were often used when the history wasn’t clear.

District of Columbia v. Heller was cited by Shapiro as an example of Scalia’s interpretation of the law according to the dictates of the Constitution.  Judge Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court in considering whether a District of Columbia prohibition on the possession of usable handguns in the home violates the Second Amendment to the Constitution.  

What does the passing of Scalia portend for the Supreme Court?

Now that the Court is split ideologically, so many important issues will be decided by the judge who replaces Scalia.  Mr. Shapiro is of the opinion that it wouldn’t matter if a so-called moderate like Garfield were confirmed, or a more liberal judge candidate. Shapiro applauds the Republican decision of “NO HEARING; NO VOTE”, and for keeping a stiff spine so far, not only because the seat to be filled is a pivotal one and the replacement would not be sitting to hear arguments until fall, but also because it is only fair for the public to have one more cycle to figure out the direction of this country in light of the partisan political atmosphere that prevails in the Supreme Court.

Regarding the recently argued immigration bill (4/18/2016), a 4 – 4 split decision would be seen as a victory for the challenger.  Stressed was that most law happens in the lower courts.  Only a fraction of cases advance to the Supreme Court. 

Shapiro reflected that if Hillary wins in November she’ll probably stick with Merritt Garland and that he will be confirmed in early January.  A word of caution:  These three judges are up in years and the next president might have the opportunity to appoint three new judges:  Ruth Bader Ginsburg (83); Stephen G. Breyer (78); and Anthony M. Kennedy (78).  

Mr Shapiro described Judicial Activism as used on both the right and the left, as an “empty term.”  It is used today, because so often in he 60’s and 70’s Constitutional restraint was practiced and thought acceptable.  Instead of striking down a law it was deemed preferable “to sit on ones hands.”

Thoughts about Chief Justice John Roberts

Ilya Shapiro denied that Justice Roberts was confused when voicing his opinions. Other than the two Obamacre cases, Shapiro stated that “Republicans don’t have much beef against him.”  Shaprio was then asked why he though Roberts ruled as he did? 

In the Obamacare ruling of 2012, Obamacare was upheld when Justice Roberts was able to label the individual Obamacare mandate as a tax, even though it wasn’t called a tax by President Obama. The law’s challengers had rejected the characterization of the law as a tax, noting the mandate as a penalty.

Scalia lashed out at Chief Justice John Roberts for his key vote to save a provision of the Affordable Care Act that allowed the federal government to provide healthcare subsidies to Americans in 34 states that did not set up their own healthcare exchanges. 

The law should have been considered unconstitutional since tax bills must originate in the House.  The House did file a brief, but nothing came of it, and the decision was left standing.  This article suggests it was Robert’s concern over his legacy as Chief Justice as reason why he literally created the tax issue out of thin air so he could side with the Obama administration.

Closing thought:  Those present agreed that the system of checks and balances has been shattered by the regulatory state; however, progressives aren’t concerned about government control; they relish it.

Some in the room did take exception to a few derogatory comments Ilya Shapiro made about Republican candidate Donald Trump. 

Before Shapiro’s comments, John Tillman, one of sponsors of the event and CEO of the Illinois Policy Institute, spoke positively about Illinois’ future. The Illinois Policy Institute, which he heads, is striving to turn a blue state into red; it is now purple. Two reasons why optimism should prevail: 1)  Speaker Mike Madigan doesn’t run the show, there is competition at the state level reflected by a .2 difference in the number of Democrats casting ballots as compared to Republican voters.  2)  The Democrat agenda reflects a dangerous game with their group identity pitch to black, single women, and millenniums.  In order to attract all groups catered to by Democrats, most importantly millenniums, the pro-freedom argument must be made.

Also present as a member of the Host Committee was Robert E. Russell, Jr, who was a member of the Senior Management of The Heritage Foundation, serving as Counselor when Edwin Feulner, Ph.D served as President of The Heritage Foundation.

A post-reception followed Shapiro’s presentation, as a continuation of the reception that preceded the event.

[Originally published at Illinois Review]